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Kelsey in Focus: Installment #4

Bronze Hermes/Mercury. Roman, 1st c. BCE–2nd c. CE. KM 2018.3.1.
Bronze female votary. Etruscan, 6th–5th c. CE. KM 2018.3.1.

New Gifts to the Kelsey Museum

Curated by Elaine Gazda, Curator of Hellenistic and Roman Collections, and Nicola Barham, Assistant Curator of Ancient Art

The bronze votive statuettes on display were donated by Professor Ilene H. Forsyth, professor emerita of medieval art in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan and former Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. They were purchased by her late husband, Professor George H. Forsyth Jr., on July 3, 1940, from J. Brummer of New York City. George Forsyth was director of the Kelsey Museum (1961–1969) and also served as chair of the Department of the History of Art. Votive bronzes played an important part in ancient ritual practice. These statuettes are excellent additions to our permanent collections of Etruscan and Roman sculpture, which previously lacked bronze statuettes representing gods and their worshippers.

Hermes/Mercury: This bronze statuette of a youthful male is nude but for the cloak that sits on his left shoulder, sweeping down over his right thigh. He is seated and represented in a classicizing style. These features together were typical of representations of gods and heroes. The youth is identifiable as Hermes/Mercury—the messenger—by the combination of the cloak and stubs of metal on his head. Originally these would have terminated in miniature wings.

Female votary: This votive statuette illustrates the Etruscan taste for the archaic style, which lingered in the north of Etruria long after it had gone out of fashion in other areas. The large head and the face, with prominent eyes and nose, are features that can be traced back to the Villanovan period (9th–8th centuries BCE). The conical cap and shoes with pointed toes, and the incised lines and dots on the dress, also hark back to Villanovan art.